The final post on my recent trip! I’d like to share some half-finished thoughts and some sketchy experimental bits and pieces.
As I’ve previously mentioned, Morocco blew my mind in the best way. This wonderful stimulation only added to the generally fresh and new creative vibes I’ve been feeling lately; exploring painting, drawing, writing, sketching ideas for multimedia pieces, film and performance art.
Another piece of a jigsaw fell into place when I watched Randall Wright’s documentary about David Hockney shortly before leaving. Having visited Tate’s retrospective in February I was surprised how little I knew of Hockney’s output and how much I loved the work. (Run to see the exhibition, which closes soon!) and I was inspired to find out more.
I watched the film on BBC iPlayer, where it’s no longer available, but you can watch the trailer online or buy the DVD and I strongly recommend that you do! One of the most interesting parts was where the artist was talking about making panoramas on his iPhone - how he thinks of them, like his multi-canvas landscapes or his collaged photographs as a way of exploring space differently and more expansively.
Sometimes when I travel alone I take pictures of my own feet in the places I walk. (Also used this tired old trope as documentary while I’m training for a marathon hike to raise money for breast cancer research). Partly this stems from an impulse to prove I was there; partly I am embarrassed about asking strangers to take photos of me and am certainly not that interested in snapping selfies - mostly because I don’t look good, not because I hate selfies. This time just those photos didn’t seem to take in enough of the scene so I began to make vertical panoramas - I’m sure partly influenced by Hockney’s stamp of approval for this accessible form of photography.
These turned into a way of documenting literal and emotional waystations. They also functioned to capture something of the landscape and required me to move within space to fill in the edges, to crane into a backbend to capture the blue sky and hot sun that was an intrinsic part of the experience for me. I’ve collected them below; they are kind of fun, and kind of silly, and kind of nothingy; but I also think they are interesting and in future travels I want to make more.
Here are another couple made more 'traditionally' by rotating horizontally on the spot (one is shot by a fellow surfer and I think it’s kind of fascinating how a tiny, handheld object with almost zero photographic manipulability can create an image with such a sense of drama and scale.
A final pano shows some glitched portions that I made by forcing the ‘stitching’ mechanism, moving the phone side to side more extremely than the instructions given by my phone were telling me to.
All of these were originally cropped and edited using phone and web apps (mostly Pixlr and the in-phone options) and this also provokes me into questioning the role of automation and control in my image-making. This is something I’ve been interested in for a while now and continue to experiment with.
Before I even left I knew I wanted to try and recreate some of Hockney’s collaged photo-print works as these are some of my favourites of his; at the exhibition I particularly noted the piece Walking in the Zen Garden at the Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto for its inclusion of his feet pacing along the bottom edge. Thinking more carefully about digital creation, control and release of control, I ran the selection of images I shot at Le Jardin Majorelle through all of Photoshop’s ‘photo merge’ command; five are stitched together below. I want to consider the algorithms involved here; what is ‘looking’ at these images and what is being ‘decided’? Of course the automation isn’t ‘pure’; I edited the initial JPEGs; I chose the five to feature here, I was asked to select various options; I cropped them into squares and erased one errant image that almost none of the commands could incorporate (hence the gappy portion top left). I enjoy their slight - or not so slight - variations.
Also while at the Jardin Majorelle and pondering these things as I and all the other tourists wandered around documenting ourselves in this moment, I recalled that my camera has a built in double exposure mode and had a little play with that. Again, the camera decides various things then I - and Adobe’s little spiders - decide some more - but time folds briefly in on itself here, like the snap shut of the aperture itself.
Here’s an accidental creation that happened while I was editing all my more traditional images of the Jardin - zooming as close as possible to check the crop on one picture, I realised I’d filled my screen with the International Klein Blue the house is famous for and in doing so created a Moroccan tile pattern of sorts. This has another layer too, seeing as (according to William Gibson, via Wikipedia), it is extremely difficult to reproduce accurately on computer screens…
AND FINALLY…another habit of mine when travelling or moving through my home city is to record sound clips of especially evocative moments. Among other things, I’ve recorded babbling rivers in Wales, vibrating hive sculptures in Kew Gardens, and a busking cellist under the U-Bahn in Berlin. All of these have an ability to transport me to a particular point and place in the way that scent does and that photographs rarely do. In Morocco, the calls to prayer that punctuate the day are one of those soundscapes, as are the sheer levels of birdsound (songs, twitterings, squawks). Click on the image below, which I shot before I recorded this clip, or here to visit the rooftop of my Marrakech riad as the sun sets.
With all of these noodlings, what I’m trying to do is stretch my practice a bit, to challenge my assumptions and habits and to begin finding a more expansive way of photographing.